Cardinals look to complete road sweep of Dodgers

LOS ANGELES — In right-handed pitchers Jack Flaherty of the St. Louis Cardinals and Walker Buehler of the Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball’s future looks bright.

And in what has the chance to be the first of many highly anticipated matchups against each other, Flaherty will oppose Buehler at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday, with each facing his opponent for the first time.

The bonus is that the Cardinals just moved into the top spot in the National League wild-card standings, while the Dodgers are 3 1/2 games back in the National League West — 2 1/2 in the wild-card race — while aiming for their sixth consecutive division title.

The former first-round draft picks are each in his first full season in the major leagues, and Flaherty and Buehler have shown exactly why they were highly regarded.

Flaherty (7-6, 3.05 ERA) not only won his third consecutive start while being in complete control against the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday, he extended his scoreless streak to eight innings. He pitched six shutout innings and allowed three hits.

Flaherty had at least seven strikeouts in each of his last six starts and could have reason for even more motivation Wednesday.

Flaherty, who was born in nearby Burbank and graduated from Harvard-Westlake High School in Los Angeles, is the third consecutive rookie and second consecutive pitcher from southern California to start for the Cardinals in the series. Daniel Poncedeleon, who was born in nearby Orange County, started Tuesday.

Another area native, Patrick Wisdom, had a bases-loaded walk for St. Louis in Monday’s victory, but was optioned to Triple-A Memphis on Tuesday to make room on the roster for right-hander Carlos Martinez.

“Yeah, good for them, it’s great these guys are in their first year in the big leagues some of them and Wisdom last night is from this area and he is able to get a start and contribute,” Cardinals interim manager Mike Shildt said. “You have Ponce tonight, a local guy getting an opportunity and then Jack getting a start here. We are expecting Jack to do what he does. He’s a guy that prepares well and has all the pitches and competes well. We expect him to go out and just pitch his game.”

Buehler (6-4, 3.19) has been similarly low maintenance for the Dodgers, although the wrinkle in his season was a microfracture in his right rib cage that appears to be fully healed. He is back to his dominating ways from early in the season, going 2-1 with a 1.42 ERA over his last four starts.

In his last outing, Buehler gave up one run over six innings against the Seattle Mariners on Sunday, leading the way to an 11-1 victory.

Mariners veteran Robinson Cano was impressed.

“They’ve got a good, young arm over there,” Cano said, according to mlb.com. “He throws hard. You face some guys that throw 98, but you see it really good. But his fastball gets to you and everything is hard, the breaking ball, the slider or cutter. He’s got a bright future ahead.”

The Cardinals’ dominating run through August continued Tuesday with a 5-2 victory over the Dodgers, leaving them a win from a sweep in L.A. The Cardinals are a baseball-best 16-4 this month.